I hope this note finds you well.
The year was 1954 and I was eight years old. We had just moved to town and it was my first and only year in Little League baseball. I was without a doubt one of the worst baseball players to ever step onto the diamond in the town of Augusta. My lack of prowess on the baseball field was rivaled only by my poor performance on the basketball court. As a ninth grader I gave basketball a try: I was the second alternate for the fourth team on a squad that lost every game except one, and that was a forfeit. I never played basketball again.
As I started out to say, I wasn’t a very good baseball player and everyone on the team was well aware of how poorly I played. I don’t think I ever saw a ball coming at me when I was at bat. When the pitcher would wind up and throw, I would close my eyes and swing. Needless to say it was clearly blind luck if I ever hit a ball.
But Butch Herford, our coach, was determined that each and every one of us would get an opportunity to play no matter how poor we were at the sport. His challenge with me was to put me where I would do the least harm.
It was a beautiful early summer day and we were playing on the little field just north of the graveyard. I was playing third base. There was a runner on third, a runner on second and Eddie Piker at bat; there were no outs. The pitcher wound up, threw the ball as hard as he could, and Eddie swung. It was a line drive straight to my glove.
I didn’t have time to think, look or move out of the way because the ball was there so fast. I was so surprised that I simply looked around and everyone else, thinking the ball had gone past me, looked to the outfield behind me. The runner on third headed for home; I walked over and stepped on third base. The base runner from second kept running toward me and ran into me—and the ball.
In fewer than five seconds I had entered the Augusta record book by accomplishing an unassisted triple play.
For a moment a quiet came over the field as everyone calculated the odds of that happening—and specifically the odds of that happening with me involved. And then everyone began laughing and clapping.
As best I could tell, this set of events has occurred only fifteen times in the major leagues since they have kept records. I fully expect that when this information gets out I will be getting a call from several of the major league teams.
Have a good journey and stay safe.
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/writer/marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 45 years. He recently released Country Doctors of Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His other books, The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at amazon.com.